“ Type: Childrens Indoor Play Centres / Address: 3 Kempson Close / Gatehouse Way / Aylesbury / Bucks HP19 8UQ / United Kingdom / Tel: 01296 481555 „
The Animals are on the Run
As we all know, England is not well known for its long hot summers. No, summers here seem to be more a two week affair with the rest of the season being invited to sing and dance in the rain.
So, you are stuck in the summer holidays with bored children running around your feet, whines of 'Im bored' flowing through your ears like a pneumatic drill and as you glance outside the window all you can see are grey skies, black clouds and heavy raindrops flooding the roads before you.
So, what can you do?
Take the little animals to the zoo - the indoor Zoomania, a fun indoor play center for children between the ages of 0-11.
As far as I know there are two Zoomania play centers, one at Herne Bay in Kent and the other in Aylesbury Bucks. There may be more though these are the only two on their website. This review covers the one at Aylesbury. Unfortunately I can not comment on the other one as I have never been there.
The first thing I noticed when going for the first time to this particular Zoomania is that there are no directions on the site which was slightly annoying (though this isn't a review on their poor website!). Their address is below under 'Other Info' and I have uploaded a map image from google maps to hopefully help you if you wish to go here (marked as A) as if you are not from Aylesbury and do not go there often it can be quite confusing to find (I got lost the first time!). There are brown Zoomania signs though not many and it is easy to miss on and take completely the wrong turn!
From the main railway station in Aylesbury (as that is well signposted) continue left up Friarage Road and onto Gatehouse Road. Take a left turn into gatehouse way and follw road around to the right. You will see Zoomania on a left turning near the other end of the road (about two turnings down). Don't look out for the sign post as we never see one!
There are about five warehouses around the Zoomania warehouse and each have parking so there is plenty of parking as long as it isn't busy, though if there are no spaces there is more spaces by other warehouses down the road though check to make sure you are allowed to park there first!
Zoomania is open Tuesday to Sunday in school term and seven days a week during the holidays between 9.30 and 6.30 and cost of entrance is £4.25 for ages 1-3 years and and extra pound for 4-11 years. Adults, for once (as you nearly always have to pay for adults in child places which Ive always thought was bad) are free. Don't worry, though, you will pay enough in food and drink! (See more about that below). For groups of five or more there are up to 20% discounts.
You do get one free juice per child for the above prices.
Now I have given you the formalities let us step inside...
ALL ABOAD THE ZOO TRAIN
On first impression I was impressed with the large multi-story play area and separate baby area available and my daughters eyes lit up with excitement. She was off before we had even got through the doors.
The baby area is set aside from the main play area and all soft play with a small ball pit which my daughter really enjoyed when she was a crawler. Now she prefers the main play area which is signposted for older children though they don't seem to mind younger children going on there as long as they are supervised.
The bigger 'Jungle Gym' is as said above a large multi-story play area, all enclosed and completely safe with ball pits, climbing frames, obsticals of many kinds, slides and many more aspects - all of which the children love and you can sit back and relaz knowing they are safe. Of course, if you are going on with a younger one, there is no relaxing for you as you will soon get very hot (as the heating seems at full blast even in the height of summer) and you will find yourself bombarded by other excited children, squeezing through small areas designed for children and trapped in the ball pits whilst your child and other random children throw balls at you!
A short distance away from the main jungle gym area is a small sports court with footballs, goal posts, basketballs, netballs etc where children can work on their sporting skills (or just run up and down randomly!). This part is also on the ground floor and completely enclosed with netting. At certain times (none of which we have been there for) there are 30 minutes of story time in this area where the children can come and sit quietly (doubtful about that!) and listen to a story. A good idea though I cant see many children wanting to come away from the play area to sit still for half an hour listening to a story - can you??!!
A 30 minute music session also occurs though check times for this also as we have never been there for this time. Probably in the afternoons as we have mainly been in the mornings. Both story time and music time have no extra costs.
Whilst your children are having the time of their lives in the play area you can sit down and enjoy a coffee in the Zebra café which is right next to the play area so you can keep an eye on your children. There are plenty of tables and chairs though in busy times do grab them quickly!
Just inside the entrance to Zoomania is a small café (in the main ground floor hall with the play area). It has recently installed a pizza oven to add to the range of food they serve which includes both meals and snacks and a range of both cold and hot drinks but it is VERY expensive and to make it even worse you are not allowed to bring anything of your own into the center. When my daughter was only a baby when we went with some others we took her baby food into the center and one very rude staff member started having a go at my sister for what we were feeding our daughter (when we were not even around and it was obvious it was not her food!). I calmly went over to the staff member on hearing this and said that I felt they were a little out of order as firstly they should have come to me and secondly asking them if they expected my baby to eat pizza. They did serve one jar food (only one!) and after saying that the particular jar food does not cater for food allergies which at the time we were having to watch with our daughter as I have food allergies, the staff member did backtrack and say baby food was allowed though no apology was received which did put a downer on our day and made the whole group of us feel that we did not wish to go back there again though you can not judge a whole place by one rude staff member. We chose not to put in a complaint and just left it at that and did eventually go back there when my daughter was older. But back to the prices for a moment - it is ridiculous prices! We went to get the children a chocolate biscuit, a small average chocolate wrapper biscuit which in shops is 15p - they tried to charge us £1.40 for one of these! We had to say no to the children as we were not prepared to pay this amount and paid extortionate amounts for juice only. We dared not to ask how much meals were! I think it is terrible that they refuse to allow you to bring your own food and drink in yet charge you silly amounts instead! We also had a coffee each as by this time we were thirsty (and yes again extortion!) and not only were they small - they were cold!
So as far as the café is concerned and the food policy I rate this very very low which is a shame as the place itself is great.
Zoomania offer a wide range of parties which include playing in the ground floor play area and then going up a flight of stairs into one of a few small rooms to eat. We have attended a birthday party here so I can for once comment properly on the party section!
After play, the children of the specific party are called together and led upstairs in one of a few very small rooms so you cant have a huge amount of people at the party. Included in the party price is some picking food (mainly cold food) though you have to supply your own birthday cakes. All chairs in the party rooms are child sized so its standing room only for adults unless you are lucky to have some benches in there or want to try your luck with a small chair. Before the children eat they go into another small room and participate in a choice of things from disco to craft (these choices have to be made when booking so the room can be prepared beforehand). At the party we went to there was a disco with a pass the parcel though the 'disco' was on a small stereo with average music which didn't really appeal to a lot of the children and the stereo itself kept breaking down!
The party packages are £8.95 per child with a minimum of 10 children and with this you get;
Entry to Zoomania with 60 minutes playtime
Your own very small party room
A party throne for the child to sit on (glorified chair)
Unlimited sugar-free squash
Party meal - choice of hot/cold food
Party games* or 30 mins extra frame time
Invitations & thank you cards
Your own party host
Gift for birthday child
Party bag for every child
Total party time 2 hours overall
* Party games option only available Monday - Friday
I am not sure if it is worth the money to have a party here - yes the children did enjoy it, though I have known better party service in other places.
Private room hire is available at Zoomania at a cost of £75 per hour. All food and drink consumed must be purchased from Zoomania.
The play area of Zoomania is fantastic. It is safe and quite large allowing the children lots of space to explore and tire themselves out, with great separate baby areas. The café is the big let down here with the high prices and silly policies and that one staff member we came across put a downside on the staff though as said above, I know you can not judge the whole staff by only one member and the party staff seemed nice enough. The other café members seemed a little bored though so not high points for this aspect.
Did the children love it? Everytime!
Do I recommend it? Yes, I do recommend it for the play area and the fact the children love it though it is certainly not the best place I have taken my child. Perhaps a bad day for the staff on the couple of times we have seen staff members bored or rude though perhaps it would be better to say go judge for yourself. It is not a total waste of time by any means as the play area as I stress repeatedly is great for the children.
3 Kempson Close
Zoomania is the trading name and registered trademark of Barlesia Play Centres Ltd